Gravelle judge reduces some charges

Date: 2006-12-16

Gravelle judge reduces some charges

Saturday, December 16, 2006
Mark Puente
Plain Dealer Reporter

The judge in the trial of Sharen and Michael Gravelle reduced eight of the felony charges against them to misdemeanors on Friday.

A jury will begin deliberations Tuesday on 16 misdemeanor charges and eight felony child endangerment charges against each of the Gravelles. The judge dismissed another felony charge before the trial started.

A lack of evidence favored the reduction of the charges, Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey said. The state’s experts failed to meet the standard to prove felony charges, he said.

“There is not evidence that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” McGimpsey said. “A reasonable person could not conclude that a violation occurred.”

The state’s evidence of abuse was sufficient to support misdemeanor charges, negating a complete dismissal of the counts, the judge said.

The Gravelles are on trial because prosecutors say they kept some of their 11 special-needs adopted children in enclosed beds, which prosecutors called cages. They lost custody of the children in March.

The couple said they enclosed some of the beds to protect the youngsters from their own destructive behavior. They have denied mistreating the children.

Prosecutor Russ Leffler said he did not agree with McGimpsey’s decision.

“We’ll at least try to get justice on Tuesday,” he said. “Based on what the judge said, I get used to being disappointed.”

Defense attorneys Ken Myers and Richard Drucker called the reduction of charges a victory for the Gravelles. The state indicted the couple on 17 felonies and just eight remain.

“We’re thrilled,” Myers said.

Drucker said the judge’s decision illustrates the weakness of the state’s case and will help the Gravelles with the jurors. The other felonies came close to being reduced, he said. “We’re going to win this case,” Drucker said.

The defense argued to have the entire case dismissed. McGimpsey retired to his chambers twice to examine case law that the defense presented.

After reading his decision, McGimpsey told the defense that his decision has grounds for appeal because of ambiguous standards in the laws that define child abuse.

“We’re plowing a lot of new ground here,” he said.

The Gravelles could face up to 40 years in jail if convicted on all charges. But none of the counts carry mandatory jail time.

The defense rested earlier in the day. The Gravelles did not testify. The smiling couple stood in a doorway while their attorneys spoke to the media. They declined to comment.

The trial will be in recess Monday.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 440-324-3773

© 2006 The Plain Dealer


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